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City of Gold

Mar 6, 2016
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Photo: City of Gold

I first met Laura Gabbert when she was in need of a professional headshot. Headshots were my bread and butter at the time, so an agreement was made. The next inquiry was in regard to family photos. Family photos was an area in which I wanted to branch, so I ignored my hesitation and took the job. I knew her girls from taking the school’s annual student photos, so how hard could it be?

They say learn from doing, and I learned my forte is not family photos (or weddings or private events); I got some fun, interesting, candid shots thanks to chickens and tree-climbing, but most likely they were not the images Laura and her husband expected or desired. Getting more than one person to breathe, relax and smile naturally at the camera is an art and I applaud all photographers who do it successfully.

I ran into Laura some years later while helping friends build a pink spaceship for the trial first episode of Tugger the Ship. During a run to the dumpster, I stumbled upon Laura’s offices. This was the first time I heard about City of Gold, a documentary she was writing and directing about Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold. I could feel her excitement about the project, having nothing but praise for her film’s leading man.

The first I knew of Jonathan Gold was when I volunteered in the fall of 2011 to help organize the first LitFest Pasadena book festival. Local author Jervey Tervalon is good friends with Gold and one night in a bar and over a few drinks (or over several drinks or too many drinks—I can’t remember how the story goes), they came up with the idea for a book and local authors festival, then approached Larry Wilson of the Pasadena Star-News and Tom Coston of Light Bringer Project (Chalk Festival and the Doo Dah Parade).

 

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Gold is a dominating figure physically and his wavy long locks are a surprise. I expected a loud voice to accompany the man, possibly gruff and dismissive or eager for attention and a rapt audience. Instead, during the few times I observed or interacted with Gold—the first food critic to garner a Pulitzer Prize—he was both quiet, reserved, and observant, and friendly, engaging, and approachable.

 

Sequoyah School Literary Salon with moderator Tembi Locke and authors Alison Singh Gee, Héctor Tobar, Attica Locke, and Jonathan Gold

Sequoyah School Literary Salon with moderator Tembi Locke and authors Alison Singh Gee, Héctor Tobar, Attica Locke, and Jonathan Gold

 

When he rose to speak at Sequoyah School’s first literary salon in March 2014—and after the audience heard from Pulitzer Prize-winner Héctor Tobar’s sobering story of the Chilean miners that became Deep Down Dark and bestselling author Attica Locke speaking about race, history, and generational change in regard to her second novel The Cutting Season—Gold spoke about tofu.

And he was hilarious.

 

Salon organizer Tembi Locke and Sequoyah School Director Josh Brody

Salon organizer Tembi Locke and Sequoyah School Director Josh Brody

 

Authors Héctor Tobar and Attica Locke in appreciation of Jonathan Gold

Authors Héctor Tobar and Attica Locke in appreciation of Jonathan Gold

 

During the Q&A session, Gold spoke about his job, which he doesn’t consider to be a job as one often speaks of a job, as an unfulfilling daily burden. He appears to cherish these past decades delving into L. A.’s side streets and nondescript corner strip malls, as well as along grand boulevards or establishments with valet service, discovering food.

In response to a question from Héctor Tobar, Gold said he repeatedly returns to restaurants, trying to slip in unnoticed or simply as one of many, in order for him to build a complete view of a restaurant and its dishes. As much as he is a food critic, Gold seems to revel in the hunt and the subsequent treasure found, from haute cuisine to street food, happily immersed in discovering the many layers that are Los Angeles—its people, their cultures, and their cuisine—in hopes of crossover. Crossover not in just the awareness and enjoyment of new foods, but crossover that leads to understanding and respect. Bonding over food; it’s an old adage. Listening to Gold, my impression was that he hopes his sharing of the varied, creative, and delicious foods available in the distinctive and diverse neighborhoods of Los Angeles will inspire us to venture beyond what we know into what we don’t know—cultures we don’t know, beliefs we don’t understand, food to which we are novices—then sit, taste, share, enjoy… and bond.

For the past many months, Gold and Gabbert have made the national and international rounds with City of Gold—which received a nomination for Grand Jury Prize – Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival—and finally it shall have it’s L. A. release, including a screening here in town.

On March 18, City of God screens at Pasadena’s Leaemmle Playhouse 7 at 7 p.m. Find details at Laemmle.com/films/40422.

If you want to attend an earlier screening, the L. A. release is March 11th. City of Gold, Distributed by Sundance Selects, may be viewed at the Westside Pavilion and Hollywood Arclight.

For more details, visit City of Gold on Facebook.

To read some of Gold’s food and restaurant reviews, visit LATimes.com/food/jonathan-gold.

 

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